Just days ago at CeBIT 2006, NVIDIA inaugurated their new GeForce 7900 and GeForce 7600 series which have finally brought the GeForce 7 series family to a full circle. Thankfully, instead of raising the already expensive suggested retail price of graphics cards, these new entrants take over their predecessor's price points. This essentially means more performance for the same price. Of course this naturally means that the existing product stack has to hit the "End Of Life" (EOL) status or drop to a lower price rung, which would affect product positioning and pricing of many other lower classed products (by virtue of time) and that of the competitors. ATI does have pretty powerful graphics cards themselves, but they did respond in double-time to reflect NVIDIA's new offerings by means of price cuts. All in all, there has been quite a bit of reshuffling in the high-end graphics card space, so below is a graphics card model comparison table. The GeForce 7900 GTX variant is of course our focus for today and the more important comparisons are the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB and the Radeon X1900 XT / XTX. Will the new flagship GeForce 7900 GTX outclass ATI's current "King of the Hill" title? Read on and surprise yourself!
|Graphics Card Models||Vertex / Pixel Pipelines||Core / Memory Clock Speeds||Frame Buffer Size||Current Street Price||Projected Retail Price|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX||8 / 24||650 / 1600 MHz||512MB DDR3||US$499 - US$699||US$499 - US$599|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT||8 / 24||450 / 1320 MHz||256MB DDR3||US$299||US$299|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB||8 / 24||550 / 1700 MHz||512MB DDR3||~ US$600||US$399|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX||8 / 24||430 / 1200 MHz||256MB DDR3||~ US$450||Unknown|
|ATI Radeon X1800 XT||8 / 16||625 / 1500 MHz||512MB DDR3||~ US$499||US$349|
|ATI Radeon X1900 XT||8 / 16||625 / 1450 MHz||512MB DDR3||~ US$549||US$479|
|ATI Radeon X1900 XTX||8 / 16||650 / 1550 MHz||512MB DDR3||~ US$649||US$549|
Unlike the GeForce 7900 GT which has had a significant upgrade in specifications over its GeForce 7800 GT predecessor, the flagship GeForce 7900 GTX also based on the G71 GPU, posses the same number of processing units as tabulated above and differs from the GT version only by means of clock speed and frame buffer size. Pimping a 512MB frame buffer doesn't necessarily help in a lot of current games, but if you are an ultra high-resolution user and demand very high antialiasing quality, the extra memory is most relevant to you. Although the GeForce 7900 GT uses the same core and processing structure as the GeForce 7900 GTX, the clock speeds at which the GTX brother runs (650/1600MHz) is very difficult to match without extreme cooling techniques. That's because the GeForce 7900 GTX is outfitted with a heavy-duty dual slot cooler, using GPU cores that have been tested for the extreme high-speed operation and is coupled with ultra fast 1.1ns GDDR3 memory. So if you had the notion of overclocking the US$299-class GeForce 7900 GT, you would still obtain good gains, but you would not be able to meet the standards of the GeForce 7900 GTX. And as usual, overclocking casts a lingering feel of insecurity and the possibility of imminent product failure if not performed in moderation.
Compared to its direct predecessor, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB, the GeForce 7900 GTX's core receives a 100MHz speed bump to 650MHz while memory is tamed down by 100MHz DDR to 1600MHz DDR. Why the memory was scaled lower is anybody's guess, but we presume this is to allow more allowance for vendors to offer an 'extreme edition' package such as what XFX and many others practice. And those would of course be dearer yet. This might not have been practiced for the former GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB due to its limited run, but thanks to the newer G71 core, NVIDIA assures that the GeForce 7900 GTX wouldn't be a phantom product (which we'll see just how true everything turns out to be).
Interestingly, while the GeForce 7900 GTX has a price bracket of between US$499 to US$699 and completely taking over the space of the phantom GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB, NVIDIA has readjusted the pricing of the latter to US$399. The abnormality here is that the product SKU has hardly existed in months and yet NVIDIA does not intend to phase it out. Judging by the specifications of the GeForce 7900 GTX, it is not difficult to see that it's not really built to be a whole lot speedier than the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB, but one that would see much greater availability. As such, there's simply no reason for the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB to exist and we believe that if one does exist somewhere, it is never going to be tagged at US$399. Over on the competitor's side, ATI has gamely reduced the suggested retail pricing for its top tier models and these would square off against the GeForce 7900 GTX. In this review, we'll be assessing the ASUS EN7900GTX 512MB and through this product review, you'll know at firsthand just how well an actual retail product performs against the competition's best.